“Women’s work” is also called occupational segregation, where employment choices are based on gender stereotypes.
And the latest research shows it leaves women less satisfied with their pay than men, but happier with the type of work they do.
The Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has just released, a working paper, occupational segregation and women’s job satisfaction, which finds some evidence for the notion of “women’s work”.
The research looks at whether the high degree of gender segregation in Australia is due to women preferring to do certain types of work or whether it was due to choice being governed by society.
Women make up 98% of all personal assistants and secretaries and more than 90% of receptionists, childcare workers, education aides and nurses, according to data from the last census.
“The study found women working in highly feminised occupations are less satisfied with their pay than other women working in roles typically dominated by men,” says Michael Dockery, a research fellow at the Centre.
“Further, the few males working in those occupations are very dissatisfied with their pay.
“While there are possible non-discriminatory explanations for this outcome, there is the very real likelihood that these jobs are low paid because they are highly feminised.”
Previous research has shown women’s identities shift once they become mothers and the work done in highly feminised jobs may fit more closely with their identity as a mother and secondary income earner.
“Our research determined that although unhappy with the pay, women are more satisfied with the type of work they do when they work in more feminised occupations,” says associate professor Dockery.
“It turns out this mainly applies to working mothers. Even more than with the type of work done, women working in those occupations are particularly more satisfied with the hours of work and their flexibility to balance work and non-work commitments.
“These findings suggest occupational choice is driven by gender norms of the ‘male breadwinner model’ in which the woman assumes the role of primary carer and secondary income earner within the family.”
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